Andrea Pisano, in other spheres referred to as Andrea da Pontedera, remains one of the most significant Italian sculptors of the 14th century ever to grace the art movement. He was born in circa 1270-90 in Pontedera near Pisa and lived a successful life and later died in circa 1348-49 in Orvieto, Papal States.
Andrea Pisano played a vital role in the inception of Renaissance Sculpture of the trecento and most of his known works were executed in Florence. As a crucial forerunner of the international gothic art style, he majorly derived his inspiration from some of the great names in the industry like Giovanni Pisano, a renowned Giotto renaissance artist.
The Bronze Doors: Florence Baptistery
Andrea Pisano's sculptural and architectural career began as a goldsmith. This was when he was Mino di Giovanni’s pupil, around 1300. During this time, Andrea worked with Giovanni on a sculpture for S. Maria Della Spina at Pisa and other different places. However, the first time Andrea Pisano’s name appeared in the art spheres was as an artist of the doors (maestro Delle Porte) in a January 22, 1330 document. The document was in connection with his first set of bronze doors that Andrea Pisano did for the Baptistery in Florence. During this time. Andrea was a capomastro of the Florence Cathedral. The first set of the bronze doors Andrea did for the Baptistery were a masterpiece, which is how his rise to prominence began. In the year 1329, the cloth merchant's guild, a group charged with the responsibility for decorating the Baptistery, sent one member to Pisa. The member was supposed to study the Cathedral’s doors then later move to Venice to secure a bronze founder to deliver on the Florence project.
As seen in an April 2, 1330 document, Andrea had already finished the wax models for the doors of the Cathedral. These doors were later hung by March 15, 1356. The doors have an inscription with Andrea’s name on them. The doors consist of two enormous bronze wings, with a decoration of 28 gilded reliefs set in quatrefoils. The door’s 20 frames on the upper side speak volumes of the story of John the Baptist; the 8 frames on the lower side with 4 on either side indicate the Seven Virtues, including Humility. Andrea had a reliance on the mosaic cycle envisioned on the Baptistery’s dome and the murals in the Peruzzi Chapel by Giotto to tell the narratives of his reliefs. The eminent sculpting style on these reliefs is gothic, which were much closer to Giotto's style that they were to mosaic's Byzantine style.
Furthermore, most of his reliefs were medium-high and in most cases contained few figures. These figures moved across shallow platforms before landscape or architectural elements. The movements are restrained and dignified, springing from the rhythms he was able to establish across the surface. Andrea Pisano did this by deeply folding drapery in swaying and graceful postures. He was able to show his great expertise and skill just from this masterpiece. Although the bronze doors were his prominent pieces at the Cathedral, he also worked on many important marble sculptures. Many of these sculptures outrightly showed the influence of Giotto in his career.
The Campanile of Florence Cathedral
Andrea Pisano derived most of his sculptural inspiration from Giotto, who defied the influence of the traditional Byzantine art. This was a form of art that covered stone-carving, decorative sculpture and ivory and metal works. It was very sophisticated and rigid, which was the opposite of what Giotto practiced. His works were simple and restrained. Upon Giotto’s death, Andrea Pisano became the Chief Architect of the Florence Cathedral. He was required to sculpt the bell tower (Campanile). Andrea was able to adorn the campanile panels with sculptural reliefs and added two stories.
By this time, Andrea had already owned a studio that already had pupils. He taught the pupils in depicting different scenes from Genesis and other arts. The subjects he depicted on the Campanile included the Seven Virtues, the Four Great Prophets, the Seven Sacraments, the Seven Planets and the Seven Works of Mercy. These subjects were originally placed in the Campanile’s niches, above the relief depictions of Solomon and David. However, the two statues of St. Reparata and Christ are now housed in the museum of the Cathedral. They are an epitome of remarkable quality.
Duomo of Orvieto
In 1347, Andrea Pisano was again appointed as the Chief Architect of the Duomo of Orvieto. The Duomo of Orvieto was a 14th century Roman Catholic cathedral that was located in Orvieto, Umbria. Lorenzo Maitani originally designed the Cathedral. Since the cathedral's design and construction lasted almost three centuries, it features both Romanesque Architecture and Gothic Architecture.
Andrea Pisano's Inspirations
As mentioned earlier, Andrea Pisano derived most of his inspiration from Giotto. Giotto depicted human figures realistically, especially expressing their spatial relations. He had a way of depicting figures in a restrained and dignified manner, away from the Byzantine art style. This is all reflected in Andrea Pisano’s works, especially on the bronze doors and the Campanile. Furthermore, since he was an architect in a cathedral, most of his works were Christian Art, inspired by the Gothic style of art. He intricately used these skills to produce remarkable quality sculptures and architectural masterpieces during his time.
Since he was a remarkable artist, his contribution to the industry could not go unnoticed. While working as the Chief Architect, he already ran an art class that already had pupils that he guided on different artistic styles. Is students learned a lot from Andrea Pisano as he guided them through different ways of depicting figures while telling the story. The most known Pisano’s students were Andrea di Cione, or popularly known as Andrea Orcagna and Giovanni di Balduccio. Giovanni was responsible for executing the shrine of Sant'Eustorgio in Milan.
Moreover, after his death, his sons Nino and Tommaso Pisano took over as his successors. Nino and Tommaso were also greatly influenced and inspired by Andrea Pisano's style and they carried on his legacy at the Orvieto Cathedral. Today, Pisano’s contribution to architecture and sculpture is still felt, with many people visiting the Florence Cathedral and Duomo of Orvieto to witness his artistic finesse.
Other Famous Works
The other popular works done by Andrea Pisano include:
Re Salomone, 1337-41
Tom Gurney in an art history expert. He received a BSc (Hons) degree from Salford University, UK, and has also studied famous artists and art movements for over 20 years. Tom has also published a number of books related to art history and continues to contribute to a number of different art websites. You can read more on Tom Gurney here.